June 8, 2016
By Steve Hyndman
Shipping containers are intended to ship goods and materials all around the globe. They are loaded up and placed on container ships which sail across the oceans. A typical shipment takes 1-3 weeks depending upon where the ship is sailing to or from. Recently, however, Shared Studios has set-up shipping containers that can instantly connect Newark, New Jersey, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Havana, Cuba; Tehran, Iran; Nairobi, Kenya; Kigali, Rwanda; Erbil, Iraq; or Mexico City, Mexico.
It’s not a teleporter per se, but rather set of immersive teleconferencing equipment set-up in shipping containers painted gold located in each of the respective cities. Each unit is called a Portal. According to Shared Studios, “When you enter one, you come face-to- face with someone in a distant Portal and can converse live, full-body, and making eye contact as if in the same room.” Each Portal includes a moderator or Portal Curator as Shared Studios describes them, who is able to provide translation as needed.
The Portals are a part of Shared Studios vision of “an internet you can walk through.” They are designed to allow people in distant locations to interact as if they we in the same room. While people can’t actually travel through the Portal, their words and ideas can.
All it takes is a used shipping container, some audio video equipment, a computer, an internet connection and, of course, the ability to conceive such a big idea in the first place. The first Portal was set up between New York and Tehran in 2014 and was expected to be a singular temporary event. The idea caught on, leading to many more Portals. If you read the news lately, it’s clear that relations between The United States and Iran have not been materially changed by Portals at the macro level, but as the old saying goes, if you want to change the world, you need to do it one person at a time. By allowing one person from each of two different cultures to interact, converse and collaborate, perhaps each will walk away changed a little bit.